Essay : BMC’s world-beaters

Ian Nicholls crunches numbers to show you just how successful the Mini and BMC 1100/1300 ranges were for their maker. It’s interesting to see how they literally ruled the world – and how the market share was surrendered once the Austin Allegro arrived…

The Mini and 1100/1300 in numbers


In the series ‘British Leyland – The Grand Illusion’, I argued that the sales success of the Mini and the BMC 1100/1300 (ADO16) encouraged motor industry executives, the Government and pundits alike to think that the British motor industry had a sustainable future as a global player. These hopes were ultimately dashed by a combination of poor design, poor build quality and chronic industrial relations which resulted in a brand image about as dire as it is possible to get.

Has any organisation had a poorer image than British Leyland did at the end of 1977? Four decades ago, on 19 June 1974, the last UK-built ADO16, a Vanden Plas 1300, emerged from the Kingsbury works in London. Overseas production continued into 1977, with such exotic fare as the Austin Apache and Authi Victoria. The exact number of ADO16s built is confusing. I have come across three sets of figures, 2,132,980, 2,151,007 and 2,250,757.

For a dozen years, the combination of the Mini and ADO16 was an amazing sales success both at home and in export markets. For many overseas buyers, they were the only British cars they ever bought – and their Leyland-funded successors seemed less appealing.

So how well did they sell?

Here are the statistics. First of all the annual production figures, all for the calendar year. The Mini had been on sale since August 1959, the first ADO16 variant, the Morris 1100, produced only at Cowley, was launched in August 1962. CAB2 at Longbridge began producing ADO16s in August 1963.

Mini and BMC 1100/1300 annual production

Year Mini ADO16 Total
1962 216,087 28,162 244,249
1963 236,713 155,929 392,642
1964 244,359 243,538 487,897
1965 221,974 228,053 450,027
1966 213,694 209,335 423,029
1967 237,227 177,030 414,257
1968 246,066 229,803 475,869
1969 254,957 242,443 497,400
1970 278,950 199,269 478,219
1971 318,475 182,060 500,535
1972 306,937 133,373 440,310
1973 295,186 79,008 374,194
1974 255,336 23,189 278,525
Totals 3,325,961 2,131,192 5,457,153

In addition to this, a further 1,788 CKD ADO16s were manufactured at Longbridge in 1975 for export, but these were not complete vehicles. In 1968, Mini production ceased at Cowley, which also ceased ADO16 production in 1971. The all new Austin Allegro, the ADO16s ill-fated replacement, was launched in May 1973.

So how did the Mini and ADO16 perform in export markets? Here are the statistics.


Annual Exports including overseas manufacture

Year Mini ADO16 Total
1962 100,087 13,047 113,134
1963 102,367 63,159 165,526
1964 120,930 73,418 194,348
1965 118,827 64,882 183,709
1966 121,997 57,553 179,550
1967 154,791 41,817 196,608
1968 159,881 89,706 249,587
1969 186,896 92,654 279,550
1970 198,388 69,181 267,569
1971 216,469 70,584 287,053
1972 210,752 32,649 243,401
1973 198,803 32,644 231,447
1974 165,650 18,743 184,393
Totals 2,055,838 720,037 2,775,875

By analysing these statistics, we can see that 50.86% of all Minis and ADO16s produced between 1962 and 1974 were sold overseas. Broken down by model, 61.81% of Minis found overseas buyers, compared with 33.78% of all ADO16s. By any standards, Alec Issigonis deserved the knighthood conferred on him in June 1969.

In that year alone, 73.3% of all Minis produced went to export markets, along with 38.21% of all ADO16s. Indeed, BMC/BLMC exported more ADO16s than the entire production run of Austin Allegros, some 667,192 cars produced between 1973 and 1982.

Mini, ADO16 and Allegro share of the UK market

Year Mini ADO16 Allegro Total UK market
1965 9.5% 14.34% 1,098,887
1966 8.74% 14.50% 1,047,522
1967 7.42% 11.83% 1,110,266
1968 7.80% 13.69% 1,103,862
1969 7.07% 13.82% 965,410
1970 7.49% 12.34% 1,076,865
1971 8.02% 10.38% 1,285,661
1972 5.88% 6.25% 1,637,775
1973 5.80% 3.56% 1.72% 1,661,639
1974 7.06% 0.62% 4.77% 1,268,655
1975 7.09% 5.30% 1,194,115
1976 6.30% 4.29% 1,285,583
1977 4.55% 4.24% 1,323,254
1978 4.56% 3.86% 1,591,941
1979 4.83% 3.49% 1,716,275

1967 was the last year the Mini and ADO16 were produced at both Longbridge and Cowley – jointly they attained a 26.67% UK market share. 1970 was the last full year the ADO16 was produced at Cowley, in order to free up spare capacity for the new Morris Marina. In that year the Isssigonis twins had 19.83% of the UK market. The ‘Barber Boom’ of 1972-1973 caught the Austin-Morris division of British Leyland on the hop and they simply could not produce enough Minis, ADO16s and Marinas to meet demand. The UK car market expanded by 27.38% in 1972, while BLMC could only expand their car production by a paltry 3.32%.

After the ADO16 ceased UK production and gave way to the Allegro, we can see that in 1975 the Mini and Allegro share of the market was 12.39%. In five years, British Leyland had lost 7.44% of the UK market, a trend the all-new, product-planned Austin Allegro was meant to reverse. After the ‘Barber Boom’ and the demise of the ADO16, demand for British Leyland cars remained static at best in an expanding market.

BMC winners: making way for the Austin Allegro

The best year for the Allegro in the UK market was 1975 when 63,339 were sold. Only in 1973 BLMC had managed to shift 59,198 ADO16s along with 28,713 of the new Allegro. The year previously, 1972, when the ADO16 design was a decade old, 102,449 ADO16s had been sold. By number crunching we can calculate that between 1973 and 1979 British Leyland manufactured 597,370 Austin Allegros, of which 385,584 were sold in the UK. This means that 35.45% were exported.

On average BMC/BLMC produced 163,937 ADO16s a year. In contrast, British Leyland produced on average 66,719 Allegros a year. With the relative failure of the Princess series of 1975, the decline of the Mini as it aged and the disastrous sales performance of the Allegro, the volume cars division of British Leyland ceased to be a major world player. All the funding that came courtesy of the British taxpayer, British Aerospace and BMW failed to reverse this.


In retrospect, we can see that the golden age of the British-owned motor industry was between 1962 and 1974. Not only did the Mini and ADO16 smash sales records, but there were other innovative British cars such as the Rover P6, the Range Rover, the Jaguar XJ6/12 and E-type. Less glamourous, but equally important, were the MG and Triumph sports cars, the Land Rover and the Triumph 2000.

BMC may have been in a financial mess when British Leyland was formed in May 1968, but it was sorting itself out. In this writer’s view, Leyland’s coffers may have supported BMC in the years 1968-73, but paradoxically also brought about its long-term demise as a volume producer by saddling it with the unattractive Allegro design instead of the ADO22, developed from the original ADO16 by Charles Griffin and Roy Haynes.

With the Allegro, British Leyland abdicated leadership of the front-wheel-drive market to Fiat, Renault and Volkswagen and, ultimately, there was no way back.


Ian Nicholls
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  1. Another fascinating insight into the BL years. However, I must take issue with the idea that ADO22 would have been a saviour.

    ADO16 sold well due to its dynamics, space & style. It was novel at its time of release with its wonderful range of abilities.

    By the Allegro release, buyers wanted less rust & more reliability. But they also wanted a new style; they wanted a new, 1970’s type of ADO16, not a re-hash. The ’22 was a clumsy re-style with a sad looking Mk2 Cortina front & the same issues as the original, but with nothing new to divert attention.

    I can see why BL went with Allegro & all its compromises. But it seems they forgot the buyer was becoming more sophisticated & was no longer taken in by ‘new’ & ‘British’ in the same sentence. Allegro should have had more Italianate styling & more efficient engines. Then, even with the ongoing industrial issues, it may have stood a chance.

    Heck, it may have become Britain’s Alfasud & given the supporters some room to cheer. Alas, the Allegro didn’t, but ADO22 wouldn’t have either.

  2. Its always the same old story – defeat dragged kicking and screaming from the jaws of victory.
    What could have happened if the student styling rehash of the Allegro had been put into production. Heaven forfend, do what Renault did – a 1500 naturally aspirated car, then a 1500 turbo car, then the 1750 at the top of the tree. They could have done so many things – but they didnt.
    My father was responsible for Company cars for years, and just one dire All-aggro (6 gearboxes it went through) was enough that every company he worked for there was just two rules:-

    1. NO BL/Rover on the fleet. Not even if you begged, pleaded or paid for it yourself.
    2. NO Vauxhall Frontera (it was an accident waiting to happen on those ridiculous floatation tyres).

    One bad car cost BL/AR/ARG countless sales over 20-25 years.

  3. Looking at my own article I can see that the Mini’s market share was hit by the arrival of the Ford Fiesta in 1977.
    Also, was it not symbolic of the decline of Austin Morris that the ADO99/LC10 Maestro was fitted with the VW Golf gearbox? The Golf being the kind of car the Allegro should have been.

  4. Quote:”Has any organisation had a poorer reputation than British Leyland in 1977?”……well yes actually: Royal Bank of Scotland and its image gets worse and worse.

  5. Surely the rot set in with the failure of BMC accountants to make money out of the Mini and ADO16, and the failure of the landcrab in the market. If the latter has sold well, then it should have generated decent profits to fund future models.

    After the failure of the Landcrab and Maxi in the market, BMC would have been in desperate trouble without Leyland, who for all their faults, at least quickly got the reasonably successful Marina out there, even if it was terrible!

  6. Always loved the Vanden Plas versions of the ADO 16 – looked better than the Allegro ever did. My brother had a Morris 1300GT for a while and that looked sporty and was pretty nippy in its time

  7. The writing was on the wall by 1972, the Mini and ADO 16 were ageing designs and falling dynamically short of rivals like the Renault 5 and the Ford Escort. Had the Allegro not been such an awful car and made into a hatchback with a better design and better quality, it could have been as big a success as the ADO 16 in its sixties heyday.
    Sad thing is in 1970 British Leyland had 40 per cent of the market, imports were less than 10 per cent and names like Datsun and Toyota were little known. By 1979 British Leyland’s market share was down to 16 per cent, 52 per cent of cars were imported and Datsun and Toyota were just as well known as Austin and Morris.

  8. The 70s into the 80s were the start of a series of uncool cars by BL.

    During the 60s the Mini continued to be funky, the ADO16 was reasonably stylish in it’s own way.

    However the Allegro was dumpy, the Maxi was frumpy and the Ital gave the not-unattractive Marina front end styling the equivalent of milk-bottle-specs – similarly the striking classy Princess into Ambassador.

    In comparison, Ford were finding their feet with the mk2 Escort, the mk3/4 Cortina, the mk1/2 Granada and the Capri.

    To give credit though, the SD1 was, and is, an example of British exterior design at its best, and the Metro was a fine supermini.

  9. Here is a theory I have never seen elsewhere….
    Has anybody pondered which manufacturer would have most to gain from the demise of BMC / BL?
    In the 1960’s and 1970’s BMC / BL consistently held highest market penetration than any other manufacturer.
    Ford stood to gain most from BMC / BL’s demise. Is it conceivable that Ford was instrumental in helping to spread rumours about the failings of BMC / BL products, real or otherwise?
    Would that not have been industrial sabotage?
    I have not heard anything about Robinson since the demise of BMC / BL. Is his disappearance simply a case of ‘mission completed’? For whom was the ‘mission completed’? Was he a Ford implant?
    Ford is alleged to have taken a Mini apart, costed it and proclaimed that BMC / BL would have made a loss on each one they built. Well, Ford would say that, wouldn’t they?
    Was Ford behind the consistent criticism of BMC / BL products? Once that hits the consumer, sales decline, less profits for product development, quality declines, and the company goes to the wall.
    Now Ford has highest market penetration…
    Mission completed?
    Just a thought.

  10. As the former head of Austin Rover Japan and a former Austin engineering apprentice I still find it painful to contemplate the dreadful product decisions made by the BL management.

    Of course it is always far easier to criticise than to do something yourself, but it says a lot that we succeeded in selling thousands of MGBs, MG Midgets, Minis, and Jaguars at a good profit to demanding Japanese customers. We would have sold many Range Rovers too if they had been available at the time. However, BL’s only new products that could pass the emission standards were total failures in Japan – TR7 and Rover 3500. As for Marina or Allegro there was no point in even trying.

    In retrospect (although I didn’t see it at the time) I believe the merger of Leyland Motors and BMH was a disastrous error. Leyland had a good range and were profitable and Stokes was a good leader – for them. BMH on the other hand had spent too much on new model programmes without doing any proper market research and were in financial trouble. Of course the endless strikes didn’t help.

    If government had guaranteed a loan on condition of downsizing and restructuring – as with Chrysler in the US – BMH had a chance of independent survival in my view, and there were good and enthusiastic management there to make it happen.

    Unhappily, Stokes with little knowledge of high volume cars brought in too many people from Ford and, without wishing to appear vindictive, Ford might not have lost much sleep when they left. The Marina was a huge leap backwards based on ex-Ford sales management demanding something they could understand – a Cortina. As for the Cortina front end stuck on the Mini, words fail me.

    Enough said. I worked for the company for 25 years and do not regret a day of it.

  11. The figures show the Allegro had barely 50% of the market share of the 1100/1300 ADO16, BL may well have not bothered and simply carried on making the ADO16 for another 5 years, my memories of the ADO 16 were very positive, the superb sports-car grip and steering of the FWD and the interior space. The ADO 16 still does not look dated in my eyes

  12. By the mid seventies it was clear British car buyers preferred the far more stylish, better to drive and better made products from Ford. Also Vauxhall was shaking off its rustbucket image with the Chevette, which was eating into both the market for the Mini and the Allegro.
    Then, of course, there were the Japanese, who had increased their market share eightfold in the first five years of the seventies and at one stage Datsun almost overtook Vauxhall. Priced just below a basic model from Britain, a car like the Datsun Sunny came with such unheard of luxuries on basic British cars like cloth seats and radios. Add this into their impeccable reliability record, low running costs and simple mechanicals and you can see why the Japanese cars soared in popularity.

  13. Glen
    Just a tad unfair on Vauxhall methinks. The rust bucket image of Vauxhall had long gone by the 70’s – the Viva HA, HB and HC were never rust buckets – any more than an Escort or a Nissan. The last car to come from Vauxhall that perpetrated the rust image gained by the E series Wyverns and Cresta a decade before was the F series Victor – the FB, FC and unloved FD were again, no more rust prone than an equivalent Ford. There were huge gains made between some models in terms of rust controls from other manufacturers too – consider the Mk 3 Cortina versus a Mk 4!
    The facts speak for themselves with regards to sales of Japanese cars but lets not get too rose tinted bespectacled – some of the interiors were horrid (often loudly criticised by CAR magazine at the time) and the handling and road holding (compared with say, a Fiat 124, ADO16 or Citroen GS) was in most cases diabolical. I had to use a Datsun 190B as a run-about at some point whilst my normal ride was a Victor FC or FD. That Datsun was absolutely horrible – I can’t think of one single redeeming feature!
    Of course, ultimately the Japs came through and produced what the public wanted – no question. It was well recognised at the time the Chevette apparently gained a lot of ground with the British public because it was ‘very Japanese’ in lots of different ways. Thankfully I had left the industry (selling Vauxhalls) by then!

  14. In the late 70s people got fed up with cars that broke down and rusted. Period. It was no longer enough to produce a British car, it had to be competitive. The Chevette was a fine little motor as was the Mk1 Fiesta. Both were streets ahead of the All-Aggro in terms of reliability.

    Let’s be honest, the Allegro was actually a step backwards from the Austin / Morris 1300. The 1300 was pretty and space efficient. The allegro was dumpy, ugly and lacked a hatchback. The Allegro estate was far better but suffered from the over-rated hydragas suspension and a droopy stern under load.

    Allegro of Chevette? No contest, win to the Chevette.
    Allegro or Fiesta? Win to the Fiesta by miles
    allegro or Renault 5? etc etc
    Actually, I’d rather have a Dolomite.

  15. MM no.12
    You are right, British Leyland may as well have carried on making the ADO16 for another 5 years, the Allegro seems to have made no difference at all!
    This is why I argue that the ADO16 had brand values, but no one knew it at the time.

  16. It is ironic that the heyday of the Mini was in the early seventies, ironically after the great rally successes.

    I think the Mini was the No.2 best seller in Europe in 1971, helped by good volumes in Italy and Spain for example.

    It was said in 1972 that even more could have been sold, though strikes had an impact.

    The ADO16’s success should have been even better and probably needs to be compared with the Cortina MK2 especially. That was the big export success of the 1960’s until the Mini overtook it in 1968.

    As for the Allegro, there’s an interesting article in an issue of Car where that car’s very lukewarm European reception was a grim harbinger of the future.

    That said, the Allegro was a Top 20 seller in The Netherlands, and a top seller in Denmark and Iceland, apparently….

  17. Might be far from ideal though it would have been far simpler and cheaper to update ADO16 into the Austin Apache / Victoria in 4-door saloon form with the 3/5-door hatchback variant being a production version of the radical rebodied 1100 project (with the same style front-end), possibly featuring Hydragas suspension as well as 998-1293cc A-Series / 1.6-1.75 E-Series units.

  18. @11: I concur with this. The BL merger of 1968 should have happened either a lot earlier or else not at all – after all, GM was formed by a merger as long ago as the 1920s!

    Mergers to form vast conglomerates were all the rage in the late 60s (There was even an ‘Industrial Re-organisation Corporation’ pseudo government department at this time). Unfortunately this often meant that companies were pressured into merging by the government with dire results..

  19. It appears that when British Leyland was formed in May 1968, the Roy Haynes styled ADO22 was rejected by Harry Webster and co. Charles Griffin had redesigned the subframes to try and avoid the rot problems associated with the existing ADO16.
    Harry Webster then asked Michelotti to do his own restyle of the ADO16 which was also rejected. The obsession that an all new car would pull in the punters led to the ADO67 project. In the Autumn of 1968 Sir Donald Stokes and George Turnbull saw Harris Mann’s sketches for the ADO67 and pushed ahead with his styling theme. It appears there were no other contenders. The ADO67’s styling was approved by the BLMC board in September 1969. Meanwhile BLMC South Africa were looking for a new design and were offered the discarded Michelotti ADO16 restyle. This was accepted and became the Austin Apache.

  20. In some respect the Allegro was ahead of its time. The big flaws in the ADO16 were longevity, limited engine size and to a degree safety. There were also concerns about noise and comfort.

    The Allegro undoubtably was far better rust proofed than both the ADO16 and most of its competitors and I would suspect would perform better in any NCAP test. It also had a bigger choice of engines and was infact the bigger engined cars that sold better.

    However thats not what the public wanted. They wanted a car that looked and drove like a alfasud, was as practical as golf as comfortable as CS or reliable as datsun.

    Sadly the Allegro is none of these things

  21. @drae

    ” They wanted a car that looked and drove like a alfasud … or reliable as datsun. ”

    So Alfa Romeo gave them a car that looked and drove like a Datsun, and as reliable as an Alfasud.

  22. There’s been few cases of technically good cars (& other modes of transport) haven’t sold well because of market forces.

    A case of the right tool for the right job, I guess.

    It’s interesting that in many of the countries where BMC cars sold well in the 1950s-60s were where Japanese cars were able to sell well from the 1970s onwards.

  23. #13, there was not to commend the 1970s for style, Kipper ties, wide lapels and flares, curly perms for men, getting drunk and falling on your face at the disco, cigarette sales were at their peak, all in all a pretty mindless shallow cultural era of modern history, step forward the cars for that era the medallion man Stag, and the chest wig Capri and Mk3 coke-bottle Cortina.

    BL with its rather sensible cars were out on a limb

  24. he key bit of information missing from this interesting piece is the Marina sales and an assessment of the proportion of ADO16 market share it took.

    To make way for the launch of the Marina the ADO16 was dropped from the Nuffield dealer chain, I have read in several publications that it was estimated that 50% of the Marina volume of 71-74 were previous ADO16 customers loyal to the Morris brand.

    If this is true then it undermines the whole business case for the Marina, its efforts would have been better focussed in part resolving the ADO16 failings (which could have been presented in a package combining the virtues of the Nomad 1500 and Apache styling as the volume car stop gap the Marina was intended to be) and urgently reworking /reskinning the Maxi into something more relevant to the private / fleet customers of the 70’s.

  25. @ 26 Graham, the Marina was designed with the fleet market in mind who demanded a simple rwd saloon rather than some Hydragas fwd model associated with Austin. It wasn’t a particularly good car, but nor was it as bad as Clarkson reckons it was, selling over a million models and being the third best selling car in 1973. Many did labour on until the late eighties as cheap bangers that were easy to fix and could seat a family of five easily.
    Also interesting to see the steep drop in sales for the Mini and ADO 16 in 1972. As Graham has pointed out, possibly people renewing their Morris 1300 changed it for a 1.3 Marina. However, another factor was during the Barber Boom of the early seventies, people in the main were feeling far better off and wanted more modern and bigger cars. Hence the ADO16 being overtaken by the Ford Cortina in the sales chart and the Escort snapping at its heels. In the case of the Mini, it was becoming seen as an ageing and crude car and some buyers might have traded up to a 1.1 Escort, which was a far newer design. Also the rise of Mini rivals like the Fiat 127 and Renault 5 could have eaten into sales.

  26. #27. A 1.1 Escort a more modern design ?? Gearbox apart, its design was hardly more advanced than its 100E predecessors of 20 years before. ( I was going to say E93A but decided that was going a bit far ) . Cart sprung rear axle ; a really crummy engine which was lucky if it would reach 40,000 miles without a complete rebuild ; handling which had you through the hedge at the first corner you came to . And you could hear the tin worm munching as you stood there !

  27. With good bodily strenght (yes I know about rear windows) and hydrogas suspension, and with relatively tried and tested mechanics in both the A and E engined versions its surprising that the Allegro was not popular (was it even offered) in more… agricultural markets such as South Africa, New Zealand and India. UK farmers quickly picked up on its ability to cope with rough tracks and soft roading into fields. Would probably have done well as a motocross special.

  28. The ADO16 was a super car to drive around town and on twisting roads – I learned to drive in one – but on the motorway it was hopelessly undergeared. The smaller engined Allegros were no better. Competitor cars with smoother engines and lower gearing had them soundly beaten when cruising.

    The Allegro should have been offered with a 1.3 litre E series engine (one of its design target sizes) and 5 speed box. Its styling was defined by its terrible front end. If they had at least changed this aspect it might have stood a chance in the market.

  29. I liked the Mk1 Allegro and felt that it lost its way by the time it got to the Mk3 in hearing aid beige.
    My father had a Mk1 1300 SDL and I have fond memories. He did 72000 in 18 months and 3 engines!
    Escorts seemed very old fashioned in comparison.
    If the Allegro had been less chubby and there had been a 5 door estate, then things may have been different.
    Just as the 127 and Alfasud became hatchbacks the Allegro did not keep up. Instead the initial glamour of the Mk1 gave way to drab BL (except the Equipe). Shame.

  30. A number of you have mentioned the Ford Escort, let me tell you my experience.
    I bought a new Morris 1100 in March 1965, I sold it in May 1968 at 50000 miles for a new Frord Escort 1300.
    I felt that I had sold a brand new 3 years old Morris 1100 for a 20 years old new Frord Escort with 500,000 rally stage miles behind it.
    The engine was coarse, the gearbox was obstructive and clunky, transmission had a lot of backlash, the clutch unprogressive and the throttle felt it was connected to the carburettor by an elastic band. It was quite impossible to make a smooth gearchange.
    The maximum tolerable speed was 55mph due to the engine/transmission vibration, whereas the 1100 was smooth up to maximum. I had a 1962 A40 948cc in 1969 and had need to do 180 miles return journey over the weekend. I took the A40 for a smooth, comfortable and restful drive at 70mph, 5000rpm, compared the Frord’s tolerable maximum of 55mph, 3500rpm.
    The Frord would not steer in a straight line, the suspension was uncontrolled and continually tossing and pitching and bouncing and rolling and shaking and shuddering. The rear suspension was stiff in bump and soft in roll.
    What looked suspiciously like a seat was comfortable in the showroom, but out on the road it was unsupportive, go round a corner and the ‘seat’ just went with my centrifugal weight.
    The ventilation was supposed to either demist the screen or direct air to the cabin, it did neither, in rain the inside just misted up. The ventilation grills at the back were supposed to let air out, I don’t know about letting air out, but they certainly let outside noises in.
    The boot lid was either locked shut or wide open, and could only be unlocked with the key.
    The only door lock failed on me, I called the supplying dealer (only ten minutes walk away) they tried to prise the door open with a jemmy, damaging the door and the panel work!
    I have driven many, many Frords in my life, ranging from the absolutely bloody awful (that’s a compliment, and it was mine) to the ‘so what is all the excitement about?’ Going by the number sold they presumably have something to offer, but it escapes me. I have driven better three wheelers !

  31. No one has mentioned the Hillman Avenger, which appeared in 1970 and which surely would have stolen some sales from the ADO 16 and Allegro. While a few people have been less than complementary about the Escort, it was indeed awful as a 1.1 but had a modern design and a trendy image engendered by sporting versions, the Avenger always struck me as a good all rounder. Spacious, with a smooth revving engine and a range of models to suit every pocket, and with a distinctive design( those hockey stick rear lights, the Avenger was quite a big hit in the early and mid seventies. Given the choice between an Avenger 1500 GLS with twin headlamps, luxury specification and a sporty drive, and a past it new ADO 16, I know what I’d choose. Also I’d favour the Avenger over an Escort as it was more spacious and with a better engine.
    Like most cars of this era, the Hillman Avenger rusted and was a bit rattly of build, but its good points always outweighed the bad ones. Indeed like the Marina, it ended up as a cheap, dependable banger.

    • I wonder if the data for ‘overseas production’ includes units assembled from CKD kits, as in New Zealand, as distinct from local production, as in Australia which stamped its own body panels and cast and machined its own engines and sourced almost all of the rest of the car from local suppliers, qualifying as ‘locally manufactured’. The stats I see each month from Korean and Japanese automakers always exclude cars shipped in CKD format as they are not counted until assembled abroad. And those stats are hard to find.

      The KD kits mentioned in the article as being made in 1975 were probably for New Zealand where the last Austin/Morris 1100/1300s were assembled in April 1976. Given the tendency of ADO16s to rust I always wondered why every NZ assembled example, which also included Wolseley and Riley over the years, left the factory with no underbody rust sealing at all. I vaguely recall the same applied to English assembled versions, including the large batches of 1100/1300/1300GT/1300 Traveller units imported in 1973-74.

      ADO16 was a great wee car. Even though the replacement NZ assembled Allegro 1300 Super added a factory heater, cloth seat trim, heated rear screen, hazard flashers, and even, at last, underseal, it wasn’t a patch on the 1100/1300. I knew many happy owners of both.

      Given that it was launched early in 1963 as the Morris 1100, I’m pretty sure the Mk3 1100/1300 was NZ’s top selling model at some point in the early 1970s, eventually knocked off its perch by the Cortina. Allegro was never in the top 10.

  32. Even if the oily bits were basic, Ford certainly knew how to market their cars, & run a competitive rally team in the 1970s.

    My Dad had an estate Avenger in the mid 1970s & wasn’t that impressed by it, considering it underpowered for it’s size & uncomfortable when driving long distances. The large hard plastic coated steering wheel was compaired to one from a bus.

    The Renault 12 my Mum had at the time was much nicer by comparison, even it was beginning to crumble away by the 1980s.

  33. @34, Fords were generally seen as more stylish at the time. Certainly a Capri was a more desirable looking car than a Marina Coupe( even if the 1.3 version had absolutely no go)and the Cortina 2000 E was the rep’s dream 40 years ago. My view of seventies Fords were they were awful if you got a basic one like a 1.3 Capri or Cortina, but the top of the range models were very nice cars to own. ( My dad had a Granada 3000 GXL after my parents split and this was like a British Lincoln Continental, loads of power, silent performance and masses of space).

  34. Good comments from Glenn and i agree with his view. The better trimmed and engined Cortinas & Capri’s were a world away from the entry level ones. Ironically, today i’ve just seen a K reg ADO16 1300GT in the burnt orange colour. Looked small against today’s rolling stock!

  35. @ 36, Thankyou, a Capri 3000 S was light years ahead of a 1300 L, which would struggle to reach 80 mph and the heavy body meant poor fuel economy. However, as both cars looked similar, the man in the 1.3 version could kid himself he had a sports car.
    Of the ADO16 variants, the Vanden Plas ones were always the most interesting. These tended to be better built than the Austin Morris variety, the 1.3 engine was uprated and made more refined, and it had fittings like leather seats and walnut trim.

  36. My Father was a Roots man, but when my Grandad was on Holiday we fixed the water pump on his 1300 1971 K Reg and this is in about 73 – 74.

    My father had heavy feet, and I was amazed at how fast he could punt it along on the test drive, I remember commenting we had just been through a traffic island at 60 mph, and he said “this is what you can do with these”. It shows its abilities as his preference at that time was for Holbay engined Hunters and Rapiers, which could blow most things on the roads of the early 70’s.

  37. @27

    I understand the decision behind the Marina being the desire to reach the fleet market. But I will argue that it was both a bad call on the market and also I believe unsuccessful as it was another BMC/BL car which missed its market.

    Its a bad call because in the Barber boom of the early 70’s which the Marina was launched into they could sell every ADO16 and Mini they could build. To make space for the Marina they took the ADO16 out of Cowley reducing production capacity for the car. Given the Marina only had an expected product life of four years, the capital investment would then have been better spent at least in part growing ADO16 capacity.

    Had it been necessary to refresh the AD16 to grow volumes you had a number of off the shelf items such as the 1500 E series 5 speed as fitted in Australia and also from Australia you had the Nomad hatchback variant then in 71 you had the Apache variant.

    The drop in market share in the early 70’s is driven by the following factors. First by the reduction in ADO16 capacity with its loss from Cowley (following on from the loss of Mini capacity for the Maxi).

    In the Barber boom the overall market was growing but ADO16 and MINI capacity was not so market share was going to suffer.

    Also this is against a background of increasing industrial action both at Longbridge but also in component suppliers, so this further reduced capacity and so sales.

    I do believe the Marina missed its market, first that in the midst of the Barber boom the ADO16 was dropped from Morris dealerships. If their customers wanted a family car then the Marina was what they were offered, as with the ADO16 the Marina was in short supply so I suspect the marketing department were not chasing the heavily discounted fleet customers when the dealers were screaming for cars for private customers.

    Even if it did make some progress against Ford in the fleet market we can see in the Ryder report how the Allegro, Marina and Toledo were seen as fighting for the same customer in the market. It suggests that by 74, they no longer considered the Marina as relevant in the fleet market.

    My conclusion is that in reality the Marina was an unnecessary addition to product portfolio and the resources would have been better spent building on the success of the Mini and ADO16 in the short term to generate the cash to replace them and reskin the Maxi into something more stylish (they did attempt to sidestep this by the Princess, but got caught out by the fuel crisis recession which stopped the family car market sizing up as it had done 71 with the Cortina mk3.)

  38. @30 – 31

    If the market had been as expected the Allegro 1500 would have been the core car in the range with the 1300 and 1750 as taking most of the rest and the 1100 just to give a low price entry point. This meant they were not as concerned about the weight of the Allegro or improving the A series as they should have been.

    The problem was the 73 Fuel Crisis and its recession meant the small family car market stayed focussed on 1100 and 1300, it was another decade till the market norm became 1600.

    This helped the Allegro earn a reputation as not being as nice a drive as the ADO16, whereas in 1500 form it was a clear step up.

    A 1300 E with 5 Speed Gearbox might well have given the car the some of credibility it needed, (to think if Pininfarina had been in on styling it might have looked like a Pug 104). That would also have meant a 2 Litre 6 for the Princess which with a 5 speed gearbox……

  39. 1973 was a watershed in British Leyland’s history. Prior to this the company had 40 per cent of the market and most of its cars were popular and well liked. Then came the Allegro, which was ugly, badly made and a poor successor to the ADO 16, and sales started to tumble as British Leyland became known for strikes, unreliability and poor design. Sad thing was even a highly competent product like the SD1, which was way ahead of its German rivals, was soon saddled with a terrible reputation for faults and by the time thesr had been sorted, the damage was done.

  40. While Ted Heath is generally widely disliked by his own party now over Europe, his feuds with Enoch Powell and Maggie, and some of his more outlandish plans like the new counties, it could be said he presided over a massive consumer boom which made most people feel far better off. Also many people in the early seventies were becoming car owners for the first time, which helped.
    However, British Leyland, as the country’s biggest car producer, should have capitalised on a 30 per cent rise in car sales in 1972-73, but strikes, a falling reputation for quality and the Allegro saw them lose 5 per cent of their market share. Even a dull plodder like a Vauxhall Viva, which at least was fairly reliable and better rustproofed and quite spacious, would have been a better bet.

  41. @37 thanks Glenn… as you say, the Capri 1300 was a sheep in Wolf’s clothing. I would have aspired to a Capri 2000 Ghia or S but even a 1600GL would have done me… sadly I never bought a Capri.

    Yep – I recall the leather trim & wood panelling on the VDP ADO16. Made them look really classy.

  42. @ 43, The Vanden Plas 1300 destroyed the myth that smallish cars had to be basic and unpleasant. Indeed it took Ford ten years to introduce a luxurious Escort and even then it looked cheap against the Vanden Plas.
    However, the ADO 16 was looking dated by 1972, and it was falling behind the opposition in terms of refinement and styling. Again it was a fairly good car, offering excellent handling and reasonable reliability from its two engines, but getting past it. Given the choice between an ADO 16 and its British competitors( including the Triumph 1500), I’d have gone for a Triumph 1500 or a Hillman Avenger.
    As for the Mini, I could never stand the nasty little buzzboxes.

  43. @44 You are quite correct by 72 the ADO16 was starting to show its age, if simply because having been around a decade people no longer saw it as new. This was not helped by BMC/BMH/BL failure to keep the car fresh in the eyes of the public, what rolled off the production line a decade after it had been introduced was virtually unchanged in UK, although in other markets were it had to fight harder for its share of the Market it did receive many worthwhile tweaks (eg 1500 E series, 5 door hatchback, Apache facelift) which could have been used in the UK for virtually zero investment.

    The problem was that with a growing car market in the UK, up some 30% in the Barber Boom, the ending of production at Cowley to make way for the Marina, increasing industrial action within both the organisation and component suppliers reduced volumes that right up to its end the ADO16 was in short supply so no effort was required to make it sell.

    However I have concluded that the BL management made a major error of judgement in prioritising the Marina over the ADO16 for investment. Even accepting they could not have foreseen the Barber Boom, they should have recognised the potential “cash cow” they had in the ADO16 and focussed their efforts before a full replacement could be brought to the market on building it better, cheaper and in bigger volumes, than trying to go head to head with Ford in the Fleet market. For example given that the A Series was to live on in its replacement why did they not even engineer out the need for that noisy power sapping extra idler gear that had been a emergency fix to solve carb icing in prototype Mini’s!

  44. @ 45. I think a restyle similar to the Apache, better rustproofing and maybe offering a 1500 cc range topper with a fifth gear for better economy and refinement would have made so much more sense than the Allegro.

  45. @ 46 Would have done the job in 71 when the Apache happened, and covered 4 to 6 years the Marina was to last. A lot cheaper to do than the Marina yet I think would have met its sales targets so generated cash to reskin the Maxi and build a Golf basher with the aid of some Italian stylists.

  46. @ 46 & 47

    An Apache-like hatchback with uprated 1600-1750cc E-Series would have made for an interesting stop-gap Golf rival.

    @ 48

    Agree though the Reliant Scimitar SE6B style front quad-light treatment (along with a Series 3 styled rear-end with hatchback) shown in the Allegro: Concepts & Prototypes section could have made the difference (in making the styling more appealing) regardless of whether the Allegro kept to Harris Mann’s styling sketches or not.

    While others believe the Allegro would have been better off featuring an up-scaled version of the Bertone-styled Innocenti Mini.

  47. If ADO16 production at Cowley was curtailed to produce the Mini, couldn’t space have been found to produce the Marina elsewhere? You couldn’t imagine Ford reducing Escort production to make space for the Mk3 Cortina?

  48. How much factory space was free when the Oxford & Minor lines were wound down?

    Considering both were theoretically replaced by the Marina I presume they were both used for Marina production.

  49. @ 50, the Marina was always produced at Cowley as this was the home of Morris and for all the Morris range was reduced to the Marina after 1975, there were never any plans to move it to Longbridge as British Leyland wanted Longbridge to concentrate on small cars and Cowley to concentrate on medium sized models.

  50. Re 52: The Ital was moved to Longbridge for it’s last couple of years, to make way for the retooling and rebuilding of Cowley South Works in anticipation of Maestro.

  51. #42, the rampant inflation of the 70s meant that if you had savings you might as well spend spend spend, your savings were being eaten alive by runaway price rises, also mortgage borrowing, grab all you can, some of that “mortgage borrowing” financed car buying etc, the mortgage interest rate was a few %,(and attracted relief for income tax), inflation % many times greater, effectively the building societies and inland revenue were PAYING YOU to borrow money

  52. The company car market was new concept and partly a tax fiddle to give management/salaried staff a pay rise when pay restraints were in force and income tax bands rose in steep and punitive steps.

    The Mark 3 Cortina was the right car for the purpose, large and garish, with lots of badge options GL GXL vynil roofs mock alloy wheels and brightwork etc, just the sort of car the flared-trousered kipper-tied wide lapel suits of the “junior executive of the era ” would aspire to be seen with, the Marina was positively dowdy judged by the fashions of that time

    • In 1975 the top rate of income tax was 83%, and lower down, the starting rate was 35%, while inflation was running at 25% and wages could barely keep pace with prices. No wonder companies cottoned on to the idea of offering free cars to their employees as some kind of perk, particularly those who had to drive for a living like sales reps, and also as a tax dodge for senior executives who fell into the 83% tax bracket. Ford, of course, offered everything from a Cortina 1600 for the travelling rep to a Granada 3000 GXL for his senior manager.

      • The actual rate of income tax peaked at 98%. Consisting of highest rate at 83% plus an additional 15% known as Investment Income Surcharge on interest/dividends and unearned income. Labour loved soaking the rich.
        This as Glenn has stated kicked off the company car as a perk for employees, along with medical insurance and subsidised loans. As usual it took the Inland Revenue a few years to close the loopholes.

  53. Re 55: Funnily enough, we did do major runs of ‘company car’ Marinas. It’s just that they were the van and pick-up versions. We did so many that salon and estate production would be stopped for about 8 weeks every summer, in order to do large batches for BT, the Post Office, and British Gas. There were even batches of pick-ups for the USAF(!!!).

  54. It seems then that Ford were the BMW/Audi of the era in courting company car drivers / fleets to great success.

    See where they ended up after their cost cutting measures of the late 80s / 90s. The Mondeo was a moderate success but never quite recovered and the Scorpio was abandoned.

  55. MM@ 54 &55
    You seem to be confusing the 1970’s with the 1980’s. These are the facts about the 70’s:-
    The Barber Boom was funded by newly available and low deposit HP.
    Mortgage finance was for buying houses only or for home improvements. To get a mortgage in the 70’s you had to save with a building society for at least a year, prove your income, be married or about to married and have an interview with a building society manager. Mortgage lending was very strict. You did get tax relief on your mortgage interest, just as well as interest rates peaked at 15%. Tax relief on mortgages continued through most of the 1980’s.
    Most people saved for consumer items. Credit cards did not arrive until about 1973 and you had to have a current account to get one, again relatively rare in the 70’s.
    The early 70’s had a property slump and the late 70’s a boom. Everybody had a job and inflation was rampant.
    Company cars took off from the mid/late 70’s and all users paid a benefit in kind charge to the Inland Revenue. Tax rates peaked at 98% for the not very wealthy.
    The usual company Cortina was a 1.6L or if you were lucky a GL. The full monty GXL was the middle managers and upwards motor. Many managers aspired to SD1’s, 18/22/Princess, Dolomite/Sprint all desirable BL products. In reality Marina’s and Cortina’s were Reps fodder, with the new company car perk driver, going for something more interesting.

  56. To add to what Neil B says, the basic Mk3 Cortina’s that the vast majority of sales reps had were rather drab, austere looking cars. Perhaps our view is distorted by a disproportionate amount of surviving Cortina’s being the upmarket bling laden models.

  57. Neil @ 58, The early seventies were boom time, the period after 1973 was characterised by energy shortages, rising unemployment, high inflation, strikes( although these were common in the early seventies), and a feeling Britain was falling behind. Indeed by 1979 there was a feeling Britain was on its last legs.
    However, I am not an ardent Maggie fan as I would think had British Leyland almost gone bankrupt in 1984 rather than 1974 she might have allowed the company to collapse.

  58. Glenn@60
    I agree the early 70’s was boom time. I was merely trying to correct the myth that consumer spending on cars was funded by mortgage lending, it wasn’t. Low deposit HP was responsible for that.
    Equally it is often forgotten that property prices slumped from late 72 to 75. By 1980 they had doubled from the 1975 price base although rampant inflation helped.
    My recollection of 75 to 79 is more positive. The biggest problem being industrial relations with the unions trying to control the Labour government. The consequences of this catching up with the country and BL in the early 80’s as the next recession.

  59. @ MM 55… love your description of 70s Company cars and the fashions of their typical drivers. Very accurate actually!

    My old employer operated a fleet of Cortina MK3 & 4 estates, either 1.6 base or 1.6L depending on the ranking of each staff member. It wasn’t till 1980 that the spec of the base models improved. Probably due to the rise in popularity of Datsun & Honda/Toyota models – though mainly private buyers bought Jap cars at first.

    My first NEW car was a Datsun Cherry in 79… couldn’t refuse the deal of a new car, for not much more than a used British one.

  60. @ Neil B, there was a more modest boom in 1977-78 as Britain recovered from the 1974-7 recession and the IMF crisis. However, British Leyland’s image was at rock bottom by then and market share fell below 20 per cent in 1978. By this time Ford was in the ascendancy, Vauxhall’s Chevette and Cavalier were stealing sales from the Allegro and Marina, Japanese cars were becoming very popular and the upper middle class buyers were deserting Rovers and Jaguars in favour of Volvos and Mercedes.

  61. Actually British Leyland remind me of another English product that went wrong and have never really come back, the England football team. World Cup winners in 1966 and a massive amount of goodwill towards them in the late sixties because they were good( just like British Leyland), then downhill afer that, including a long spell without qualifying, and constantly harking back to the good old days of the sixties. For militant unions, read hooligans who trashed their way through Europe and gave a once loved team a very bad name. Then, apart from brief periods of optimism in the nineties, constant failure and in this world cup, humiliation. Sounds very like a certain car company.

  62. Those 1,788 CKD ADO16s made in 1975 were probably for New Zealand. As a student, that year I visted the old Dominion Motors (original Morris distributor) assembly plant in Newmarket, Auckland, which was still busily churning out Austin and Morris badged 1100s and 1300s which were still a popular car in the face of a growing Japanese onslaught. They were roomier inside, for a start. By then the plant was run by NZ Motor Corporation under which all the BL brands and KD plants had been consolidated. At one point the Mk III ADO16s were the country’s best seller. The short-lived Allegro MkI, with round steering wheel, came later that year but was assembled in a different plant. ADO16s are still not an uncommon sight down there as daily drivers 40 years on.

  63. Its unfair to point all the blame on BL. The UK joined the EEC from January 1973 which opened up our market, in 1974 we had the 3-day week plus oil crisis etc- generally the 70’s were turbulent. I actually liked the Allegro, brought secondhand cheaply and they seemed to be more cared-for by their first owners xx

  64. The Mini probably did so well in the sixties as it was a unique product and only had minimal competition from the Hillman Imp and the sub 1 litre Fiats. By the late seventies, the Mini had the Ford Fiesta, Chrysler Sunbeam, VW Polo, three door Vauxhall Chevette, Fiat 127, Datsun Cherry, Renault 5 and Toyota Starlet stealing sales and offering a far more modern drive. The Mini had been left largely undeveloped in the seventies and had become too outdated for most buyers.

    • Agreed there was more choice, I liked the Chevette/127/104. However, sales
      figures I have for UK sales in 1978 are 72,617 Mini v 68,723 Fiesta whilst 1979 was 82,938 Mini v 58,681 Fiesta. Outdated it may have been, like ADO16 at its end, but clearly there was brand loyalty.

  65. The Mini and the ADO16 helped killed the British car industry because they didn’t make any money. The management at BMC was appalling, the attitude seemed to be we will design the cars and the economics will work themselves out latter. If the car doesn’t make enough money, just crank up production and eventually enough will be made to cover the costs.

    At best these design just about broke even or produced a small profit. Which leaves nothing to design and produce the next generation of vehicles. In hindsight Isigonis was indulged too much, with his desire to design expensive to produce high technology (for the time ) cars and his disinterest in what the market wanted.

    The best option for the British motor industry would have to have nationalised BMC and left Triumph/Rover to do their own thing. Face lifting the Mini and AD016 might have bought time but what would have happened when next generation cars like the Polo and the small reliable Japanese cars entered the market?

    • I know the Mini often made of loss but the ADO at least made a small profit most of the time it was in production.

      While BMC had the excuse of advanced engineering, Rootes often barley broke even when most of their cars were very conventionally engineered.

      • Though the answer may have been the stillborn ADO22 and possibly the Mk2/Mk3 ADO16, was there a way ADO16 could have been better costed to improve on its small profit margin like the Mini was said to have been in ADO20 / Mk3 form?

  66. The 70’s were a crazy time for sure! We paid £3000 for a house in Feb and sold it for £6000 before the end of the same year. I couldn’t afford the £18 per month mortgage! Disagree with some comments about fashion though – the kipper tie syndrome. But what we did have was a style sadly lacking today. Just look st the boring blue and grey suits for men! And yes – all that lovely long hair on men too. Far more care lavished on our curly locks than the boring stuff we see today! And let’s not forget the 70’s produced the very best in rock music – Purple, Zep, Mac and all…

  67. Does anyone know the reason why the 1100/1300 never received a reskin? If the car had got reskinned around 69/70 with more contemporary styling, and the option of an hatchback with better rust proofing, then there would every chance it would still have been either the best selling car in the UK or in the top two. The car was loved by the public (something that went against it’s replacement the Allegro). The Escort and Cortina and both been reskinned by the early 70s, the Cortina on it’s third incarnation. Ford kept the styling fresh even if the mechanicals were old but dependable, the 1100 was mechanically years ahead of them both, just in need of a freshen up.

    • The original plan for the Allegro was a reskin using the 1100 / 1300 subframes, but ended up becoming something different.

    • The simple answer was Donald Stokes! As the new boss, he thought BMC were a failure and so they had to show the world Leyland were now in charge, so wanted a brand new car. However, that wasn’t the plan for his team originally, with Harry Webster even planning to introduce the updated ADO16

    • Makes one think how soon a competently managed BMC would have been able to bring ADO22 into production compared to the 1973 Allegro, no doubt the company turmoil (including the focus getting the 1969 Maxi into production) prior and following the formation of BL significantly delayed things.

  68. Looking at sales figures for the ADO16, they do show a steady decline after 1969. The car was facing stronger competition from the Hillman Avenger, Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva HC, which were more modern cars and had bigger engine options than 1.3 litres. I suppose there was some internal competition from the Marina 1.3 as well, which had replaced the Morris 1300 in 1971 and some people trading in their 1300 would have been encouraged to buy the bigger Marina. The ADO16 had to be replaced by 1973 as it was an 11 year old design and falling behind its rivals, just a shame it had to be the Allegro.

    • I cannot agree that any of the three rivals you mention were more modern cars : all three of them really were no more advanced that the Morris Minor had been 21 year before ! The Escort in particular was a typically inferior Ford product , and none of the three could go anywhere near the ADO16 in terms of ride, handling, and indeed spaciousness ( except for boot capacity ) . Also, while there was no 1500/1600cc option for ADO 16, the twin carburetter options were more powerful than the other cars, and the acceleration was notably better. However, one area where ado16 did fall short was in cruising ability, which was just becoming to be an issue as the Motorway network was expanded. I think you put the finger on the real trouble : why produce , in the Marina, an iferior but larger car to compete with your own product?

      • Certainly the MacPherson strut front suspension on the Escort was noting to be ashamed of, & could put the Minor carry over suspension in the Marina to shame!

        The Marina was supposed to grab sales from the Mk2 Cortina in the fleet market, which at the time liked a car with simple engineering.

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